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On this page; Getting the best value or cheapest price when buying a ferry ticketWhat to consider when buying a ferry ticketCheck out your memberships, clubs and cardsWhat to look out for and do when you have bought a ferry ticket

Tips and what to watch out for when buying a cross channel ferry ticket to France and Spain.

Cross channel ferries – tips and what to watch out for

Taking a ferry remains the most cost effective way to get to France and the continent. There are for a start no charges or limits on the amount of luggage you take, and the fare structures are simple in comparison to the budget airlines sites. Prices charged are normally per car, but the number of people this covers may vary from two to nine.

Pre-planning is essential, but this involves expected travel dates rather than research. Most ferry companies have sales and offers on from time to time, but for a limited period only. Start planning over Xmas for your summer holiday as most of the good deals are available in the early part of the year. With a bit of pre-planning considerable savings can be made.

Don't leave it to chance - you may end up paying a lot for your crossing.

2014 - With My ferry Link continuing to operate (subject to the Competition Commission decision late June 2014), fares remain very cheap. Be careful to make use of the links provided and check the code needed to obtain whatever is on offer is actually used (often we find they are not automatically inserted).

2013 – Watch out! The highly competitive situation on the cross channel ferries, coupled with over capacity means the ferry companies are struggling to survive. Pricing policies have changed as a result. A few years ago fare structures became very simple and basically involved daytrips (usually 24 hour), and each way tickets. Now we are drifting back to the bad old days of 3 day, 5 day and longer stay fares, as well as overpriced single tickets and APEX fares (remember them?). Recently a new wheeze was thought up – flexi tickets. The headline rate can be bought, but if you are late you must extra, usually a lot more. Now we see supplements for booking a daytrip less than 24 hours from departure. This is plain silly as most daytrippers book their tickets within two days of travel.

Increasingly advertising is becoming more dishonest. Our approach to honesty involves a reasonable possibility of getting the advertised rate. However advertising a daytrip for £19 when you have to travel before 5.00am or after 4.00pm in the afternoon is not a £19 daytrip. It is worth pointing out though that MyFerryLink's daytrips are 24 hour fares which means you can stay overnight. We were pleased for example not to be charged a supplement when booking a daytrip less than 24 hours before travel, neither did we pay extra when paying by credit card.

TIP - Dover port. Lanes 1 to 82 are closest to the ticket booths, lanes 83 to 138 are in the second area (don't stay in the right hand lane), and lanes 139 to 265 are at the far end of the port (right hand lane).

Ferry company to France

Ferries to Belgium

Ferry to Spain

United Kingdom Ferries

1 – Getting the best value or cheapest price when buying a ferry ticket

Don't fall for marketing terms such as "best value" fantastic deal", superb offer" etc. from agencies offering ferry tickets. Consumer law is vague regarding web site promotions and allows scope for considerable dishonesty by unscrupulous traders.

Never book a ticket on a website without full contact information easily available.

Don't use the phone to book – typically you will pay a fee of £10 to do this. However, the operators may well know of fare options not easily found via the internet, so do consider ringing and discussing the options – the savings may well be more than the phone booking fee.

Use a debit card – Most companies levy a fee for credit card use. However, in the event of a business failure, you will not be covered if you paid for the fare with your debit card.

Shop around. Many very good offers do not pay commission so are not promoted even by companies using terms such as "cheapest", "best value" etc.

Rely on sites that want your custom such as this one – we always promote the cheapest fares, even when we are not getting paid.

Check five and ten day fare options. Sometimes these are cheaper and worth amending your travel plans for.

Always consider using the ferries. Fares are per car with up nine passengers. There are no luggage or weight restrictions when travelling by ferry, ferry travel avoids the long queues associated with airport security and controls, and ferries are more spacious and comfortable.

Avoid agencies and marketing companies with websites promoting a ferry company. They will charge a hefty fee when you want to amend a ticket, and often have no contact information on the website.

Sign up for newsletters and follow their Twitter and Facebook campaigns. Unique offers are often made via social media.

APEX fares (advance purchase) are no longer available, but National Ferry Fortnight (March every year) is worth following as the offers available are good and generally apply for travel for the rest of the year. We update our Vouchers and deals pages listing the offers every year. www.discoverferries.co.uk

Always check the vouchers and deals pages of this site. We list them all,even when we are not being paid!

Other things to watch out for when booking a ferry ticket.

2 – What to consider when buying a ferry ticket

How many people per car. Usually this is nine on the short sea channel routes. However if sailing further afield the fare is normally car plus two.

Administration charges. Even when a quote says that cancellation and amendment are free, there may be administration charges especially for use of credit cards.

Fuel surcharges. These often get added in at the last moment, especially when the oil price is high.

Tall vehicles. Many ferries have set aside specific areas for taller vehicles. It is essential you make the company aware of this before arrival.

Passports – if you are travelling with people who do not have European Union member state passports, you may need a visa for them. Make sure your own group's are up to date at the time of travel.

Travel insurance – check what is covered.

3 – Check out your memberships, clubs and cards – Many organisations give discounts or allow you to trade in your points.

Check the prices first, as many of these discounts apply only to brochure fares which are much more expensive.

Member of the AA?

You are entitled to a discount of up to 7 – 15% on Brittany ferries fares.

The AAAA Travel and Breakdown insurance.

aa brekadown insurance

StenaLine Ferries - Save up to 10% on some routes and fare types.

PO Ferries - 5% off fares to France, Belgium and Holland.

Wightlink Ferries - Save 5% on car and foot passenger fares.

Tesco

You can use your points for some very good value Eurotunnel fares.

4 – What to look out for and do when you have bought a ferry ticket – tips

Disabled drivers or passengers – Notify the carrier as you will be allowed on first and shown the lifts you may need.

Avoid carrying fuel cannisters or gas cylinders. If you must, always check with the operator before you set off.

Arrange your own travel insurance, before starting your holiday, its much cheaper. Avoid using holiday, ferry and airline web sites for the extra's, whether its a hotel, car hire, airport parking or travel insurance. They usually have exclusive arrangements with a particular company, and do not always offer best value.

Don't be late. If you arrive less than 25 minutes before your sailing you are unlikely to get on. Via the M2 from the Blackwall Tunnel to the A2 turn off is about 50 minutes, to the Dover turn off (next roundabout) about 30 minutes, to ferry – about 15 minutes. Ferry companies are becoming more and more efficient, and that does not inviolve hanging around. I recently sat on a DFDS ferry watching the doors of the ship being shut 15 minutes before departure which was itself 7 minutes earlier than advertised. Additionally, you may be pulled in for a random security search, usually quite quick, but enough to make the difference between catching your ferry or hanging around for the enxt one.

Add an hour to your travel plans. Roadworks, unaccounted for peak periods, special events and emergencies can all delay you. We would also advise anyone leaving Central London to allow plenty of extra time. At peak times, the road system simply doesn't cope very well around Dover. Try take the A2 rather than the M20 motorway, there's only a two minute difference between each route.

Useful Outside links

ferry sail drive – Discover Ferries (formerly Sail and Drive), news from the ferry companies. www.discoverferries.co.uk

Protect my holiday – Protect my Holiday. This company offers insolvency cover. www.protectmyholiday.com

say no to 0870 – Say NO to 0870. www.saynoto0870.com

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